The School: Middle Tennessee State University
Record: 1-0 (0-0 in Conference USA). MTSU was 7-6 in 2015. That year, they lost to the only successful Johnny McCrary two-minute drill in college football history.
Ranking: Unranked in the AP Top 25 and Coaches' Poll. The formulas have Middle Tennessee rated 69th in the Real Time RPI (Vanderbilt is 124th).
Mascot: The Blue Raider. Typically when you see an utterly generic nickname like this preceded by a color, it’s an indicator the previous mascot was super racist (Marquette Golden Eagles, St. John’s Red Storm). This case is no different; MTSU’s old mascot was Nathan Bedford Forrest, better known as the (likely) FIRST GRAND WIZARD OF THE KKK.
Checkmate, culturally insensitive Native American mascots. You’re not beating MTSU unless you call your teams the Birth of a Nations.
Location: Murfreesboro, TN. Better known as that one city on Bar Rescue where Jon Taffer thinks things like wine and appetizers are too upscale for the clientele. “Our market research suggest people here use bottle caps and polished rocks as currency, but would these people appreciate the quality of a premium vodka like Smirnoff (tm)?”
Coach: Rick Stockstill, who gray shirted his own son when he first stepped on campus in 2013. I imagine it’s because the children of coaches get their tuition paid for, but I’d much rather think Rick is such a hard-ass he forced his son to do Oklahoma drills until he earned his spot on the roster. Every time he threw an incompletion in high school, Rick would torch one of his recruiting letters.
Conference: Conference USA, which is a weird way to spell and pronounce Sun Belt. Enjoy these salad days of having Rice and UTEP before the Mountain West raids the league and suddenly you’re scheduling home-and-homes against Central Arkansas and Bryant.
All-time vs. Vanderbilt: 3-13
In the Last 20 Years vs. Vanderbilt: 3-1! Bobby Johnson lost two of those games by a combined three points. To be fair, few coaches could have properly prepared for MTSU’s “throw 13 guys on the field goal block team” that won the Blue Raiders the game back in 2005.
The Last Time We Saw These Guys: Vandy trailed 13-3 with eight minutes to play before Johnny McCrary realized his potential, hulked up, and prevented a loss that would have turned us all against Derek Mason like villagers against Frankenstein. He led Vandy to 136 yards in two drives (98 of which came from McCrary) to fend off the Blue Raiders in Murfreesboro.
The next week, he barely completed 50 percent of his passes and threw three interceptions in a loss to South Carolina.
Is Vandy Favored?: YES. By 4.5 points, just like last week. We all remember how that turned out, right?
Most Potent Offensive Threat: Brent Stockstill, the best college quarterback in Tennessee!
Pro tip: if you want to get away with a dig at Vanderbilt, make sure it’s also an even bigger dig at Tennessee. We eat that shit up.
Most Potent Defensive Threat: At 6’2 and 170 pounds, Jeremy Cutrer is more skeleton than cornerback, but he’s got great ball instincts and can throw a huge wrench in Andy Ludwig’s plans to revive the Vandy passing game. He had three interceptions and 13 passes defensed last fall before breaking up three more passes in MTSU’s season opening win over Alabama A&M.
Matchup to Watch: Derek Mason vs. stable quarterbacking. Sorry MTSU, but the biggest narrative to follow on Saturday will be whether Mason pulls his starting quarterback off the field for the running prowess of a player with a career -2.1 yard per carry average.
Interesting Fact: MTSU fans want to take over Vanderbilt Stadium. Have they ever really seen Vanderbilt Stadium? If they really want it, they can have it. Just give us a few minutes to pry the boat horn off the press box first.
Bonus Fact!: A 12,000-square foot mosque was built in Murfreesboro back in 2012. The whole thing wasn’t super well received, which should come as a surprise to absolutely no one.
If Middle Tennessee State wins, we: hope Derek Mason’s children weren’t set on getting in-state tuition to any of Tennessee’s fine institutions of higher learning.